Nine-year-old stowaway removed from home while the family undergoes therapy
Screenshot of Oct. 9 press conference with the father of the nine-year-old stowaway and family spokesman, V.J. Smith
A judge ruled Wednesday that the nine-year-old boy who hopped a flight to Last Vegas without a ticket will be removed his home, answering his father's recent plea for help.
Expressing concern that the boy would be "endangered" if he returned home, Hennepin County District Judge Joseph Klein ordered separate therapy sessions for the boy and his family as well as an evaluation of others in his life as possible guardians.
The boy's parents had been expected to make a statement. Perhaps the closest they came was when their attorneys, including Bob Paule, asked the judge to prohibit the public -- meaning journalists -- from the courtroom. AP explained it this way:
Klein denied the family's request to close the hearing, though he granted their request to seal many of the records in the case. Paule cited "unprecedented media coverage," including the leak of a confidential county memo and what he said was an offer of money for the family's story. But the judge noted that Minnesota law says child protection proceedings should remain open except in extraordinary circumstances.
Last week, the father agreed to meet with reporters so long as he could shield his face with a black hoodie and ball cap. His son's story has taken off nationally.
The bizarre and frenzied pace of the coverage was evidenced when the boy returned to Minneapolis on Saturday with an NBC producer named John Getter on his tail. Authorities briefly detained and questioned Getter after he tried to take a picture of the boy, whom he described simply as "Bigger than expected."
However, the petition seeking intervention in the household does more than a photograph ever could. It shows that the boy was recently suspended from school for "aggressive behavior" and has a history of running away from home. He may also have stolen a car last month and later a truck, which he then crashed into a police squad car.
The boy was unaccompanied when he eluded security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Oct. 3, but possibly blended in with another family. He's believed to have walked down the jetway while a Delta gate agent was distracted. Once in flight, attendants realized he wasn't on the flight list and altered authorities on the ground.
Whatever the boy's sins, he's too young to be charged with a crime. He was not present in court Wednesday, although his parents were granted rights to visit and speak with him over the phone.
The next court hearing is set for Nov. 20, after what should be a relatively quiet month for everyone involved.
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